Audio description (AD) is visual information conveyed through words. It translates things that are visible into things that you can hear. It is the process of translating key visual components into a spoken track. It is done to ensure that the intended meaning and effect are transmitted to those who cannot or do not access the images. It can happen in ‘real time’ or in an inserted pause depending on the aims and delivery of the content.
Developed in the first instance to enable people who are blind or have low vision to be able to consume Entertainment and Information alongside their sighted peers, it also speaks to the 21st century multi-tasking consumer, and research points to its value in helping those on the autistic spectrum to “pin down” specific concepts.
The ever-broadening range which benefits from audio description includes:
· Film, Television & Streamed Content
· Live Events
· Educational Audio-Visual materials
· Online Audio-Visual material (through platforms such as Youtube)
If your content includes visual components that have been selected for a reason, then yes. Without audio description, the meaning and effect is impacted for a significant sector of your audience. From both commercial and accessibility perspectives audio description is as valuable as captioning in ensuring equitable access and wider reach.
An Audio Describer’s role is to ‘translate’ the visual components into a live or pre-recorded speech track that is designed to intertwine with any existing sounds (dialogue, music, sound FX). Things we describe include people, sets, facial expressions, movement, entries and exits, props, clothing, art, objects, anything that carries meaning or effect.
Consider: Does the sound make sense by itself? Is your content comprehensive and comfortable to consume through audio only?
Are there visual sequences without explanatory voice (“What’s happening?”)
Are there on-screen titles that introduce presenters/characters? (“Who’s talking? What authority are they speaking with? What’s their bias?”)
Are the words spoken accompanied by facial expressions that reframe the meanings?